No air raid sirens were heard before the fresh air attacks, which occurred just after 9 p.m. local time (1 p.m. EST) according to a Reuters reporter on the scene.
Buildings smoldered throughout central Baghdad as dawn broke Saturday after U.S. and British forces mounted a massive air offensive late Friday. Cruise missiles and bombs smashed into government buildings including one of Saddam Hussein’s presidential palaces.
The intense air raid, deemed to be the beginning of the “shock and awe” air campaign promised by Pentagon planners, produced dramatic images of massive balls of flame shooting into the night sky over Baghdad.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a Friday press briefing that “several hundred military targets will be hit over the coming hours.”
Iraqi officials claimed three people had been killed and more than 200 injured in Friday’s targeted bombardment of the capital.
Iraqi forces reportedly set oil-filled trenches around Baghdad on fire Saturday in an apparent attempt to create a smokescreen that would make future U.S. and British air strikes more difficult to navigate. Iraqi forces appear to have been trying to deter the coalition air raids by firing anti-aircraft weaponry and alerting the city through air raid sirens.
Iraqi state television reported that Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan complaining that the U.S.-led forces targeted homes, schools, mosques and churches in their attack.
Iraqi information minister Mohammed Said Al-Sahhaf said at a news conference that the attacks hit “civilian places” and a presidential palace used to house visiting foreign dignitaries.
Bridges that cross the Tigris River, which runs through central Baghdad, are reported to still be in tact and the city’s electricity and water supplies continue to function normally.
In some of the first daylight raids of the three-day old war in Iraq, early morning explosions were reported on Saturday as traffic returned to the streets of Baghdad and workmen cleared debris from the sidewalks according to media reports from the region.